Editor’s note: The Scholastic Art Awards program has been recognizing teen artists around the US since 1923. In Nevada, there are two separate annual contests, one in the north and one in the south, so we checked in with two contest winners. Chris Lanier, a drawing professor at UNR Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, talked technique with Paloma Moon, a senior at Douglas High School in Minden. Las Vegas artist and critic Brent Holmes talked with Anorien Beathes, who attends Las Vegas Academy. (You can read Brent’s interview with Anorien here.)
In Reno, students’ winning work will be exhibited at the Nevada Museum of Art and and UNR’s Sheppard Gallery Feb. 6 – March 3.
In Las Vegas, the winners’ exhibition opened at Springs Preserve on Jan. 28 and will be on view through March 27.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Paloma Moon’s ballpoint pen drawing, titled “Greg,” earned her an American Visions award. The drawing is a vivid portrait of one of her classmates. The intricate crosshatching materializes a wealth of detail, but there’s nothing fussy about Paloma’s technique. There is, instead, a real visual energy, which undulates outward and upward along Greg’s shock of hair, breaking the frame. Greg’s eyes peer over the top edges of his glasses, and Paloma’s attention to his gaze—and the way the light stipples his irises—convinces me that I’m actually having an encounter with another person, through the screen of the paper.
The title of the piece that was selected is “Greg.” So I wanted to start out with — who is Greg?
He is my classmate. He sits next to me in AP art. We get along well, he’s a great friend. He’s also an amazing drawer/artist. All my [previous] portrait pieces were girls, and I wanted to try something new. Explore different facial features. I had an interest in doing a piece with him and he agreed. I was so excited to draw him.
Did you use a photo reference?
This was a photo reference. I combined two different photos together.
Can you talk me through the process? Did you start out with a photo shoot where you suggested poses and figured out the framing? Did you composite the two pictures in Photoshop and use that as your drawing reference?
It was a photo shoot. It happened right there at the table in front of everyone. I had an idea of the expression I wanted him to do. In the piece, his eyebrow is lifted, and I wanted to try drawing a piece like that. So I said, “Hey, can you do this pose,” and he did it. No Photoshop. The eyebrow in one picture was amazing, but the other eye [looked] kind of lazy and small. In the other [picture] his other eye was more defined.
You didn’t composite the photos, but you used both as a reference that you combined in your head.
There are so many great details to it. I love how the eyes interact with the edge of the glasses. In terms of directing him as a model—is that something that you did with your previous portraits?
Yes. It’s funny, because the people I take pictures of, they’re really nervous. Of course they are—it’s nerve-wracking. So I usually take them out to the hallway, where there’s no one there. I usually have an image in my head of what I want to draw. Sometimes I don’t—sometimes I’ll say, hey, try an expression, do something different.
It’s interesting, because when people see the drawing, they’re probably thinking of you as a drawer. But you’re also a sort of photo-shoot manager as well.
That’s awesome. I didn’t think about it like that.
I’m curious about the choice, in the drawing, to bring the hair and the arms out of frame. Could you talk about that choice?
The hair goes outward. It’s a foreshortening element. I love incorporating foreshortening. The arm is also foreshortened. Which gives the picture more—what’s the word …
Dimension, something like that. Foreshortening is something I like to put in my pieces.
It’s always a challenge, certainly. Foreshortening is hard! But there also seems to be a psychological dimension to it. What do you think you’ve captured of Greg, in terms of his personality?
I think I just captured who he is. His features, his details. He’s very daring. He was definitely putting his eyebrow up in the photo shoot. … For some reason I really wanted him to have his eyebrow up in that picture.
But how do you describe that psychologically, or emotionally? What does that eyebrow allow him to project?
Honestly, that eyebrow – it just shows how awesome he is. It makes you want to meet him.
What’s attractive to you about crosshatching?
I started with pen last year, at the end of my junior year. I did scribbles at first—little circles. This year was when I started getting into cross-hatching. It’s a way I can show detail, and overlap, and get that value in. If you look up close, you can see all the pen marks. But when you look far away, it builds the details. Every single thing about the person is there.
Who is the teacher you’re working with, with the Scholastic Art Awards?
Her name is Zoe Shorten. She’s amazing. She’s helped me through my art journey, and has opened up so many opportunities.
How does having art classes in school benefit you?
It benefits me to have more motivation—even in my other classes. I have AP Art classes every day. It’s something I look forward to in the day. It brings my energy up, my mood up—it just makes me happy to be at school, to be honest.
I love art so much. That class is so fun. I have lots of great friends in there. We love to talk, and draw, and really connect.
Photos courtesy of Paloma Moon
This article was funded by a grant from the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.